Dr David John Kilcullen was in Singapore from 14 to 18 November 2022 as part of the Distinguished Visitor Programme hosted by RSIS’s National Security Studies Programme (NSSP). Dr Kilcullen is a leading theorist and practitioner of guerrilla and unconventional warfare, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism. He had previously served in Iraq as senior counterinsurgency advisor to US Army General David Petraeus, then as senior counterterrorism advisor to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, deploying to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and Colombia. His operational experience spans over 25 years, with stints as a light infantry officer, intelligence analyst, policy adviser, and diplomat with the Australian and US governments.
Dr Kilcullen is currently Professor of International and Political Studies at University of New South Wales, Canberra, where he heads the Future Operations Research Group and teaches contemporary strategy, special operations, urban warfare, and military innovation and adaptation. He is also the Professor of Practice in Global Security at Arizona State University and CEO of the analysis firm, Cordillera Applications Group. Dr Kilcullen has authored several books on terrorism, insurgency, urbanisation and future warfare, including Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerrilla, Blood Year: The Unraveling of Western Counterterrorism, and The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West. He was awarded the 2015 Walkley Award for his reporting on the rise of Islamic State.
During the week-long visit to RSIS, Dr Kilcullen delivered two public seminars. In the first seminar, “Virtual Strategic Depth — A Strategy for Singapore to Flourish in 2050”, he spoke about a strategic environment shaped by the heightened potential for conflict between China and the United States, and the options for Singapore to enhance its strategic depth through off-setting critical capabilities, developing national and regional support networks, and increasing technological and social resiliency for national mobilisation.
At the second seminar, “A Look at Urban Systems — A Decade On”, Dr Kilcullen touched on patterns of continuity and change in urban systems, the implications for future conflicts in cities, and the strategic measures that city-states like Singapore can adopt in the context of urban conflicts.
While in Singapore, Dr Kilcullen held meetings with the Minister for Home Affairs and Law, Mr K. Shanmugam, and several senior government officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence. He also exchanged ideas with researchers and analysts from RSIS and the government sector.